Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 31, 2021
by Tony Wikrent
Congressional Research Service, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]
[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]
Strategic Political Economy
Umair Haque, January 26, 2021 [Medium, via The Big Picture 1-29-21]
….Fascism always has economic roots. Always. American pundits still don’t want to discuss that, because then they’d have to admit they were wrong about the economy for decades — and they’ll never do that, because then they’ll look like the fools they are.
Think about Germany. How did “it” happens here? Because the Weimar Republic fell into poverty. The average German, expecting a stable and secure life of relative prosperity, instead experiences sudden, sharp, downward mobility. Old racial hatred suddenly resurfaces. The Jews were blamed for the travails of the average good German — they have always been the enemy within. Who else was responsible for all this poverty and despair and ruin — except the hated minorities who had always been poisoning us from the inside?
That’s exactly the story of modern day America, too. The American middle class finally began to implode around 2010, after have a century of stagnating wages, while costs like healthcare and education and food and housing exploded year after year. The average American — the white one — expected the life he or she was promised: a suburban dream of easy, thoughtless prosperity. Instead, what they got was blighted cities, an opioid epidemic, half of all Americans trapped in “low wage service jobs,” trips to the doctor that cost as much as a house. They experienced just what Weimar Germans — sudden, sharp downward mobility. They might have tried to hide it by buying McMansions on credit, but the economic facts tell the true story: the average American by 2015 or so lived in a new underclass, couldn’t raise a tiny amount to pay for an emergency, lived pay check to paycheck, and died in massive debt.
What happened? Americans, like Germans before them, were seduced by old hatreds. And these hatreds weren’t even that old: America was still an apartheid state until 1971. Americans blamed their woes on minorities — Mexicans, Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, anyone not in or from the good and pure white majority. All those minorities were scapegoated as animals and vermin and terrorists and so on. The cheerleader of all this hatred was Donald Trump, who rode it all the way to the Presidency.
How do you solve this problem — that fascism has roots in economic stagnation and implosion? You solve it with a Marshall Plan…. American needs a Marshall Plan to recover from fascism. Last time, it was Europe that needed to totally rebuild. This time, it’s America. A land of decrepit, ruined…everything. Schools that look like fallout shelters, hospitals that have closed down, towns that have no transport links, whole communities that can’t access investment, entire regions without decent jobs. America needs a Marshall Plan to rebuild itself, because economic ruin is always what is at the root of fascism, and therefore, taking away the poverty that breeds and rebreeds ancient hatreds is the single truest vaccine against fascism there has ever been.
[Esquire, via Naked Capitalism 1-29-21]
The important news here is that USAF designed, built and flew it in just a year. I assume this is the culmination of a program begun years ago (which I read about) to advance rapid prototyping and ruthlessly minimize project development time. This is a massive disruption of world aerospace combat capabilities, because it means a constant stream of increasingly advanced aircraft are deployed, instead of one “platform” into which is poured tens of billions of dollars for “life cycle extensions.” The following articles give more background.
I’m not sure, but I suspect that most managers and directors of defense contractors are very unhappy about this, as it obstructs the potential for rent extraction from the defense procurement budget, and places a premium on the development of new science and technology, which now depreciates in value much more rapidly than under the previous rent extraction model of defense procurement.
I hope that there will be more detailed studies of this, because I suspect they will show there has been an inherent conflict between the professional military officer corps, and the defense contractors, who in the final analysis are merely pipelines of rent extraction to Wall Street. It would also tend to confirm my argument that using Veblen’s schema of producer class / industry versus predator class / business yields better analysis than Marxist class analysis.
[DefenseNews, September 15, 2020]
[DefenseNews, September 16, 2019]
Dean Baker [CommonDreams 1-29-2021]
This raises the same issue as the above stories on the new USAF combat aircraft: What if medical professionals were in charge of a national vaccination program, instead of the business managers of the medical-industrial complex?
The big problem, of course, is that going this route of open-source research and international cooperation could call into question the merits of patent monopoly financing of prescription drug research. After all, if publicly funded open-source research proved to be the best mechanism for financing the development of drugs and vaccines in a pandemic, maybe this would be the case more generally. And, no one in a position of power in American politics wanted to take this risk of a bad example….
The people who have been able to enjoy rising incomes and financial security over the last four decades ostensibly justify their better position by their greater contribution to the economy and society. But when you mess up in your job in big ways that lead to major costs to the economy and society, that claim doesn’t hold water.
We have seen a massive rise in right-wing populism where large numbers of less-educated workers reject the elites and all their claims about the world. When we have massive elite mess-ups, as we now see with vaccine distribution, and there are zero consequences for those responsible, this has to contribute to the resentment of the less advantaged.
It is appalling that we have structured the economy in such a way that the elites can be protected from consequences for even the most extreme failures. The fact so few elite types even see this as a problem (seen any columns in the NYT calling for firing?) shows that the populists have a real case. The economy is rigged against the left behind, and the people that control major news outlets, which include many self-described liberals or progressives, won’t even talk about it.
Jacob Bachrach, The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]
Especially pertinent if you read Umair Haque’s article near the top: recovering from fascism requires justice by holding elites accountable.
After a year of mounting pressure from investors and outside critics, Leon Black, the billionaire chief executive of private equity giant Apollo Global Management, announced on Monday that he would step down later this year. Apparently the revelation that Black gave $158 million to deceased sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein for supposed financial advice was enough to provoke an internal revolt among Apollo’s leadership. According to The New York Times, which previously dubbed Black “the billionaire who stood by Jeffrey Epstein,” a fellow Apollo co-founder wanted Black to step down immediately. Black refused but later agreed to relinquish the CEO seat while remaining chairman of the company’s board. He set his departure date as sometime before July 31, when he turns 70. And in a typical gesture of billionaire contrition for an association he insists was honorable, he’ll donate $200 million to “women’s initiatives,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
Leon Black’s not-quite fall from grace is emblematic of what passes for elite accountability in this country. Leaving on his own terms, his fortune intact, relatively untouched by legal concerns, still wielding the chairmanship of the firm he founded—things could hardly be better for a man who maintained a close financial relationship, if not more, with a convicted pedophile. He may lose a few social invitations, perhaps have his name taken off a building he donated to some nonprofit institution, but Leon Black will be just fine. He now belongs in the busy pantheon of American elites who suffered no real consequences for their alleged crimes or disturbing associations. (It goes almost unsaid that Black’s own business history as a vulture capitalist and owner of Constellis, a private military company descended from Blackwater, also deserves scrutiny that will never come.)
Matt Taibbi, January 28, 2021 [TK News]
The rally sent crushing losses at short-selling hedge funds like Melvin Capital, which was forced to close out its position at a cost of nearly $3 billion. Just like 2008, down-bettors got smashed, only this time, there were no quotes from economists celebrating the “good news” that shorts had to cover. Instead, polite society was united in its horror at the spectacle of amateur gamblers doing to hotshot finance professionals what those market pros routinely do to everyone else…. just like 2008, trading was shut down to save the hides of erstwhile high priests of “creative destruction.” Also just like 2008, there are calls for the government to investigate the people deemed responsible for unapproved market losses.
“unapproved market losses” — Gotta love Taibbi’s facility with words
[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism 1-29-21]
Ian Welsh, January 28, 2021
And that’s what matters: not what the Redditors have done, which is 100% legal and done all the time, but the institutional response: to bail out rich people who got caught with their pants down.
The markets exist, at this point, for one reason and one reason only: to give money to rich people. It is an insider game, and if you’re on the inside you essentially can’t lose. The exceptions are very rare, the class of insiders is protected at all costs, as it was in 2008 to the tune of 20 trillion or so in the US alone (ignore the Treasury and things like TARP, the real action happens at the Fed.) Other central banks also flooded the system with money, so the end result was probably over a 100 trillion.
Since then central banks have regularly bought up assets simply by printing money. Insiders play various games, but the key is that if they win they get to keep the money; and if they lose, government steps in to make them whole. Since the game is rigged for them to make money in the first place, it’s hard to lose money, but like a gamer who knows that death isn’t real, and they can just restart, they push everything to the max.
The entire game needs to be shut down and re-booted with Glass-Steagall era controls at the very least. Hedge Funds need to be made essentially illegal, private equity needs to go away, and these people need to eat the losses when it is shut down.
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-30-21]
Sam Pizzigati [Consortiumnews, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-21]
...But Adelson’s $33-billion fortune will live on — and distort our nation’s political life for years to come.
How many years? We can’t, of course, see the future. But we can see how the past impacts our present. Consider, for instance, the current impactful political presence of Timothy Mellon. The 78-year-old Mellon ranks today as one of America’s biggest political donors. In the 2020 federal election cycle, he donated just over $70 million to right-wing political groupings…. Timothy Mellon bears the surname of one of America’s all-time wealthiest. His grandfather, banker and industrialist Andrew Mellon, ranked as one of the nation’s three richest men back in the 1920s.
The final legislation that Congress deposited on President Calvin Coolidge’s desk gave Mellon most everything he wanted: a cut in the top income tax rate down to 25 percent, the repeal of the gift tax and a halving of the estate tax rate. For Mellon personally, the savings would be munificent. Estimates would put his net worth, just over $80 million in 1923, as high as $600 million — over $9 billion in today’s dollars — six years later.
The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time
David Sirota, Andrew Perez, and Julia Rock, January 27, 2021 [The Daily Poster].
“Late last year, at the urging of Bernie Sanders and House progressives, Democrats were forced to break from their proclivity for complexity and issue a simple ‘read my lips’-esque promise to deliver $2,000 survival checks. Even though the proposal was itself means tested, it was still nearly universal and so straightforward that it helped Democrats win two Senate seats in Georgia, a longtime Republican stronghold. And yet, despite the fact that the $2,000 checks proposal is enormously popular, the party has almost immediately reverted back to form, slowly but surely trying to complicate the idea to the point where it’s becoming unrecognizable, complex and a proof point for those who believe Democrats refuse to just do what they promise…. On Monday, Biden declared that the once simple proposal is now ‘all a bit of a moving target in terms of the precision with which this goes,’ adding: ‘There’s legitimate reason for people to say, ‘Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X number of dollars or Y?”… The most exquisitely crafted ‘well, actually’ arguments from Washington know-it-alls, academic experts, smug pundits and emoji-wielding Twitter mobs will not save Democrats from a voter backlash if they fail to deliver on their simple promise — just like George Bush’s technocratic arguments about budgets and taxes didn’t save him from a voter backlash after he issued his simple ‘read my lips’ pledge and then violated it.”
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-29-21]
Eric Levitz [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-21]
“[I]f the outlook for filibuster abolition looks dim, Blue America’s civil war over the issue is far from over. For the Democratic Party as an institution, the stakes of enacting major reforms over the next two years are nearly existential. And its leadership appears to understand this, even if its marginal senators do not (and/or care not for their party’s fate). The basic problem facing the Democratic Party is simple: Barring an extraordinary change to America’s political landscape, it will lose control of Congress in 2022 and have a difficult time regaining control for a decade thereafter…. To defy political gravity, and fortify U.S. democracy against the threat of authoritarian reaction, Democrats need to either rebalance the electoral playing field through the passage of structural reforms, or attain a degree of popularity that no in-power party has achieved in modern memory. If the filibuster remains in place, doing the former will be impossible and the latter highly unlikely…. [T]he Democrats’ existential interest in eroding the filibuster remains on a collision course with its moderate senators’ aversion to power. Anyone with a fondness for democracy must hope that, against all odds, the forces of partisanship will prevail.”
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-26-2021]
[nativenewsonline, via DailyKos 1-30-2021]
Among American Indians, Jackson is commonly referred to as the “removal president” and the “Indian-killer” because he signed the Indian Removal Act that stole millions of acres of lands from tribes that led to the forced removal from tribal ancestral lands to west of the Mississippi. The harsh removal campaign is commonly referred to as the Trail of Tears….
The Andrew Jackson portrait was replaced with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.
The symbolism of the portrait swap was observed by Sault Ste. Maire Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment, who also serves as the first vice president of the National Congress of American Indians.
“The symbolism of founder Ben Franklin is not lost on Indian Country. Recall he was one of the intellectual architects of the separation of powers ideology that his writings show originated from the Iroquois Confederacy Great Law of Peace,” Payment told Native News Online.
[Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism 1-28-21]
Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-21]
Matt Taibbi [Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-21]
[Vox, via The Big Picture 1-25-2021]
The week before Biden took office, 1.4 million Americans filed for unemployment.
“Crew Abandoned for 11 Months Calls for Action Staging a Hunger Strike” [Maritime Executive, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]
“The crew of a bulk carrier abandoned by its owner and flag state is staging a hunger strike to call attention to their plight according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Desperate to get their back wages and return home the crew turned to this drastic action. The crew, which consists of Indian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Bangladeshi seafarers, has been stuck on the ship, the Ula, abandoned for the past 11 months at the port of Shuaiba, Kuwait. According to the ITF, the hunger strike began on January 7 in their effort to get off the ship and recover more than $400,000 in wages owed to them.” (See NC here for more on the crew change crisis.)
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]
“The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to defy Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) reopening plans for teachers and staff due to coronavirus concerns, the union announced on Sunday. The teachers union for the nation’s third-largest school district decided to allow all educators to conduct work remotely starting on Monday, the day that kindergarten through eighth grade staff were expected to return in person. The CTU reported that 86 percent of its 25,000 members participated in the electronic vote on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Seventy-one percent of voting members decided to deny the district’s current plan to come back to in-person learning. ‘So what does this mean?’ a CTU release read. ‘It means the overwhelming majority of you have chosen safety. CPS did everything possible to divide us by instilling fear through threats of retaliation, but you still chose unity, solidarity and to collectively act as one.'”
Restoring balance to the economy
[Grub Street, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-28-21].
“One of the most consistent masked faces among the essential workers during the strike was a representative for the South Bronx, Amanda Septimo, who spent her first two weeks in the Assembly providing physical and emotional support for the workers. In between bites of a sandwich that was donated by the DSA, Septimo gave me more info about reported involvement in the contract resolution by Governor Andrew Cuomo. She had asked the union leaders, ‘Tell me what I can do’ to help end this strike, and they responded with an assignment: ‘Call the governor.” Instead of informing them that she didn’t exactly have Cuomo on speed dial, she called “every single person — everyone I ever knew.’ Septimo said the union wanted Cuomo to call the market back to the bargaining table, which she said happened on Wednesday, the night of AOC’s appearance. Septimo said the two parties were back at the table on Thursday. “We wouldn’t be here without that intervention,” she clarified. (I reached out to the governor’s office to confirm this account, and to ask, if it is true, why the governor did not publicly claim credit for the mediation, but I did not receive a response.)”
[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-28-21]
“At Walgreens, workers start an $10 an hour. No chain store empire employing essential workers pays less. Could Walgreens afford to pay more? Just no way, the company’s flacks would like us to believe. Walgreens was cost-cutting, the excuses go, even before the pandemic hit, announcing plans in 2019 to shut down 200 of its 9,000 local U.S. outlets. The squeeze on Walgreens workers has only deepened over the course of the pandemic. No retail giant in the United States, report Brookings analysts Molly Kinder and Laura Stateler, has given its workers less of a Covid hazard-pay bump than Walgreens, just 18 cents an hour…. Not every major corporate player has treated the pandemic as just another easy greed-grab opportunity. Workers at Costco — who start at $15 an hour, $5 an hour more than workers at Walgreens — have had an extra $2 an hour added to their hazard base rate.”
For small business owners considering their next steps during the time of COVID-19, or pondering ways to preserve their business legacy as they approach retirement, cooperative conversions - selling a business to its employees - are an increasingly compelling option to retain jobs and keep small businesses in their communities. Baltimore’s nonprofit cooperative lender, The Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy, will lead you through the steps of this process, and answer questions about whether an employee buyout might be right for your business.
[Axios, via The Big Picture 1-25-2021]
The U.S. lags far behind the rest of the world in electric vehicle adoption. Catching up will require big investments in EV production — including battery cell manufacturing and mining of raw materials — to avoid dependence on imports and foreign supply chains.
Climate and environmental crises
[Bloomberg, Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-26-2021]
“Melting on the ice sheets has accelerated so much over the past three decades that it’s now in line with the worst-case climate warming scenarios outlined by scientists. A total of 28 trillion metric tons of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, according to a research paper published in The Cryosphere on Monday. The research team led by the University of Leeds in the U.K. was the first to carry out a global survey of global ice loss using satellite data. ‘The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” lead author Thomas Slater said in a statement. ‘Although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most.'”
Information Age Dystopia
[Publishers Weekly, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-21]
“The suit is being brought against Amazon on behalf of three named plaintiffs and a potential class of consumers who bought e-books published by the Big Five “through a retail platform that competes with Amazon at a price inflated by Amazon and its Co-conspirator Publishers’ price restraint.” The suit was filed by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, which filed the first e-book price-fixing lawsuit against Apple and five of the then–Big Six publishers in August 2011. And we remember how that turned out: with a federal antirust suit and claims from 33 states. The publishers ended up settling all claims for a total of $166 million in consumer credits. Apple lost at trial a year later and paid out a $450 million settlement. As to why this suit is happening now, suffice it to say that it feels like the Amazon antitrust train is getting ready to leave the station and Hagens Berman wants on. ”
Ian Welsh, January 27, 2021
….basically the internet now runs thru a number of major content aggregators: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc… (many of these are owned by the same few firms.) Most people go to the major sites and find their media there, and those who don’t use Google as their search engine.
These platforms are private and thus, as we are told over and over again by fools, are not subject to the first amendment, which they seem to think means “it’s not censorship.” But when almost all of the media consumption on the internet goes thru sites owned by five or so large companies, the commons are owned private firms, and all that has happened is that private firms are doing the censoring.
These content aggregators are aggressively banning outlets, and there is effectively no appeal…. This all really took off after 2016, with RussiaGate hysteria and concerns over Cambridge Analytica’s program of targeted propaganda. It is now about to enter a new phase, and sweep internet aggregators of a vast number of independent voices….
The center wants only the discourse they approve of in the media....
Matt Taibbi, January 26, 2021 [TK News]
For independent outlets like Status Coup, these questions pose a serious problem. Because they’re dependent financially on platforms like YouTube to reach subscribers, they can’t afford to take the risk of being shut down. But how can alternative media operate if it doesn’t know exactly where the lines are? Also, how can such outlets add value when its one advantage over corporate media — flexibility, and willingness to cover topics outside the mainstream — is limited by the fear of consequences from making independent-minded editorial decisions?
[Fortune / Mirror, via The Big Picture 1-26-2021]
In the past, most corporations had balance sheets full of tangible assets: land, buildings, equipment, and inventory. Now the majority of assets are intangible: patents, brand value, software, and customer data. Look at that shift from 1985 to 1995 as the Internet came online in a meaningful way. The corporate balance sheet of today looks nothing like the one from the 1970s.
Disrupting mainstream politics
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]
“President Joe Biden benefited from a record-breaking amount of donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, meaning the public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House. Biden’s winning campaign was backed by $145 million in so-called dark money donations, a type of fundraising Democrats have decried for years. Those fundraising streams augmented Biden’s $1.5 billion haul, in itself a record for a challenger to an incumbent president. That amount of dark money dwarfs the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, former President Donald Trump. And it tops the previous record of $113 million in anonymous donations backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012…. Overall, Democrats in this election cycle benefited from $326 million in dark money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was more than twice the $148 million that supported Republican groups. Some of the Democratic groups that relied on dark money in whole or in part spent heavily on early ads attacking Trump in critical battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The groups started spending while Biden’s relatively cash-poor campaign was struggling to raise money for the primaries.”
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]
“A look back at the media consensus that prevailed around this time during the very first months of the previous Democratic administration underscores the danger of making bold predictions of a new dawning era of liberalism…,, very little about the media consensus at the time of Obama’s victory, and continuing for a while following his inauguration, was actually borne out in practice. Far from bringing back vigorous activist government, the administration would forgo a large scale overhaul of the financial sector in favor of perfunctory leak-plugging that left the basic contours of Clinton era deregulation intact.”
The Dark Side
[Media Matters, via The Big Picture 1-24-2021]
Fox News repeatedly aided Trump’s efforts to undermine election results, laying the groundwork to cry foul if Trump lost, echoing debunked theories of fraud, pushing the idea that Democrats are trying to “steal” this from him, and arguing that Trump is justified in pursuing his claims of a rigged election. This pattern of coverage continued in the lead-up to the day of the riots.
Max Boot [Washington Post, via The Big Picture 1-24-2021]
There is a whole infrastructure of incitement that will remain intact even after Trump leaves office. Just as we do with foreign terrorist groups, so with domestic terrorists: We need to shut down the influencers who radicalize people and set them on the path toward violence and sedition.
Caitlin Johnstone, January 24, 2021 [consortiumnews.com]
The way to stem the tide of Trumpism (or fascism, or white supremacism, or Trump cultism, or whatever term you use for what you’re worried about here) is to eliminate the conditions that created it.
Trump was only able to launch his successful faux-populist campaign in the first place by exploiting the widespread pre-existing opinion that there was a swamp that needed draining, a corrupt political system whose leadership does not promote the interests of the people.
Conspiracy theories only exist because the government often does evil things and lies about them with the help of the mass media, forcing people to just guess what’s happening behind the opaque wall of government secrecy.
People only get it in their heads that they need a trustworthy strongman to overhaul the system if the system has failed them.
[USAToday, via The Big Picture 1-29-2021]
Federal prosecutors continue to charge participants in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, adding to dozens of arrests that took place in Washington D.C. that day. Included are those arrested on charges federal prosecutors have filed since the riot, and those arrested by Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police for entering the Capitol or for crimes related to weapons or violence.
[Center by Media & Democracy, via CommonDreams, January 28, 2021]
To repeat from Umair Haque’s article near the top: recovering from fascism requires justice by holding elites accountable. There is a LOT of useful information in this article. This list goes on to 124 individuals. The last ones on the list gave $500,000 each.
1. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson: $191.4 million
2. Ken Griffin: $59.8 million
3. Timothy Mellon: $50 million
4. Stephen and Christine Schwarzman: $46 million
5. Liz and Richard Uihlein: $43.4 million
6. Jeff Yass: $33.3 million
7. Reyes Family: $21.5 million
8. Ricketts Family: $18.1 million
9. Charles and Helen Schwab: $17.2 million
10. Bernard and Billi Marcus: $14.7 million
Daniel Schlozman and Sam Rosenfeld [American Political Science Association, via “Marjorie Taylor Greene’s vile new antics highlight a 50-year GOP story” The Washington Post 1-28-2021]
….traces how what we term the Long New Right fused substance, style, and strategy in service to a vision of electoral majority. An approach to politics centered on a take-no-prisoners mobilization of resentment and defined by a mercenary approach to institutions emerged in the postwar era, coalesced as a project for power in the 1970s, and took over Republican politics by the new century….
...the load star of New Right politics [is] the exploitation of grievance and status resentments—“knowing who hates who,” as Kevin Phillips had put it in 1968. Political institutions, for their part, served in this view not as means to cross-cut or tamp down underlying conflict, but as instruments of power to extend the domination, or to prevent the domination, of some groups over others.
It is important to understand that this Republican / conservative / libertarian view of political institutions is an outright rejection of the fundamental purpose of government, as defined by James Madison in The Federalist Number 10, is to regulate the clash of contending economic interests. It is thus a rejection of what the United States is supposed to be as a republic.
[NBCNews, January 28, 2021, via DailyKos 1-29-2021]
[The Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-26-2021]
Forgive me for quoting a great slab of this article: “Progressives who equate class with money naturally fall into the mistake of thinking you can reduce class differences by sending lower-income people cash—in the form of a universal basic income, for example. Meanwhile, populists on the right tend to imagine that the United States was much more egalitarian, within the white majority itself, than it really was, whether in the 1950s or the 1850s. Both sides miss the real story of the evolution of the American class system in the last half century toward the consolidation of a national ruling class—a development which is unprecedented in U.S. history.” Hence Thomas Frank’s “airtight consensus.” More: “That’s because, from the American Revolution until the late 20th century, the American elite was divided among regional oligarchies. It is only in the last generation that these regional patriciates have been absorbed into a single, increasingly homogeneous national oligarchy, with the same accent, manners, values, and educational backgrounds from Boston to Austin and San Francisco to New York and Atlanta. This is a truly epochal development…. More and more Americans are figuring out that “wokeness” functions in the new, centralized American elite as a device to exclude working-class Americans of all races, along with backward remnants of the old regional elites. In effect, the new national oligarchy changes the codes and the passwords every six months or so, and notifies its members through the universities and the prestige media and Twitter. America’s working-class majority of all races pays far less attention than the elite to the media, and is highly unlikely to have a kid at Harvard or Yale to clue them in. And non-college-educated Americans spend very little time on Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which they are unlikely to be able to identify—which, among other things, proves the idiocy of the ‘Russiagate’ theory that Vladimir Putin brainwashed white working-class Americans into voting for Trump by memes in social media which they are the least likely American voters to see. Constantly replacing old terms with new terms known only to the oligarchs is a brilliant strategy of social exclusion. The rationale is supposed to be that this shows greater respect for particular groups. But there was no grassroots working-class movement among Black Americans demanding the use of ‘enslaved persons’ instead of ‘slaves’ and the overwhelming majority of Americans of Latin American descent—a wildly homogenizing category created by the U.S. Census Bureau—reject the weird term ‘Latinx.’ Woke speech is simply a ruling-class dialect, which must be updated frequently to keep the lower orders from breaking the code and successfully imitating their betters.”